NFL free agency may be winding down, but the faces of ESPN’s 2019 football team are still coming into view, starting with its all-important Monday Night Football booth.
Network executives met with Peyton Manning two weeks ago (as first reported by The Hollywood Reporter), following Jason Witten’s return to the Cowboys. Manning now has to determine if he wants to commit to the gig after turning down ESPN’s overture last year. Since then, he has joined the ESPN family through a show on ESPN+ but he’s still expected to ultimately say no again. That said, a decision could still be weeks away. If Manning does *ahem* pass, incumbents Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland would become the favorites for the assignment.
While that process plays out, ESPN is building an entirely new draft show. Last week, Robin Roberts announced that she would be hosting ABC’s telecast of Round 1 in Nashville and will report from there on that day’s Good Morning America. She’ll be joined by the College GameDay cast.
Tom Rinaldi will also join the show; the NFL recently agreed to give him green room access, where he’ll speak to family members and coaches. Meanwhile, McFarland will be a part of the ESPN broadcast, which will remain football-heavy as ABC’s version highlights human interest angles in an attempt to draw in new viewers.
“We want to differentiate ourselves,” ESPN vice president, production, Lee Fetting said of the broadcast TV version. “We want to personalize the draftees, tell some background stories, unique stories, etc., etc., while mixing in football and while also not getting too far out of our lane because when we get too far out of our lane, we don't do so well.”
NFL Countdown is changing too. ESPN and analyst Charles Woodson parted ways last month. Tedy Bruschi is expected to fill the role. Fitting declined to comment on possible personnel changes, but did share the direction he’d like to see the Sunday morning show move in.
“I want it to be smart and fun and conversational. That’s kind of obvious and the show has offered a bunch of that but I want more of that,” Fitting said. “I think the more conversational the better.”